Cube Calendar Articles from 1995
Reflections on Diverse Ideas:
Prism - Mirror - Lens
"The hermetic work of art was not interested in perception, but rather allowed perception to vanish within itself."
T.W. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, pg. 124
The image and the destruction of thought.
The composing subject -- I, as the composing subject, think through the material object and deepening shadow that is music. My music is separate from me, but I move within it. There is something outside of my being that exists within the being of music. I interact with this musical being when I compose, but I do not create it. I am constantly aware of that which is not me within music.
This is true of language as well. I must be constantly on guard against the prosaic word that lacks truth in language. Language that gives rise to only images merely describes. Thus the flaw of language is its inability by definition to speak the unspeakable. The unspeakable is not outside language, it is hidden within language. Language delimits the unspeakable with every utterance. This beyond-the-image is partially inhabited by poetry and philosophy, but most fully by music. When I seek to uncover a musical object with language as my means, I risk falling into images. Thus, all that can be spoken:
It is not the image but the word.
It is not the word but the deed.
It is not the deed but the representation of the deed.
It is nothing but Allegory.
All is allegory.
Allegory is nothing.
Naming -- The title of the work Prism - Mirror - Lens is an instance of naming for technical reasons. It rather obliquely indicates procedures that I used in the composition of the work. It conveys through an image that portion of my working technique which I felt to be of some consequence to the outcome of the work itself. Refraction, as in a prism, is an image of the musical process of interval expansion and contraction. In Prism - Mirror - Lens, one example is the change of interval between pitches and rhythms in two musical motifs that are the same in contour (see mm. 81-82, Alto flute and Oboe). The two lines are derived from a common source, but diverge into components that form an image of diffraction.
Another way of looking at the title is as drawn from my experience with other works of art. This can be traced back to my early experience of Samuel Delaney's novel Dahlgren -- where "Prism, Mirror, Lensî" is the title of a chapter and a reference to certain characters' apparel--, and is filtered through encounters with Boulez's Figures, Doubles, Prismes and Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram. Both of these works' titles are images of the ancient musical procedure variation.
The name is a complex of associations. One of the first questions the performers of CUBE asked me was the meaning of the title, and of the quotation affixed below the title in the score: "Tout est sensible!" --de Nerval. This too is another reference to both Boulez and Ferneyhough. Boulez was early fascinated with the poetry of de Nerval (a precursor of the French Symbolist poets), and Ferneyhough affixes a quote from Baudelaire ("Tout est hièroglyphique") above the title of his Lemma-Icon-Epigram.
The image can never be seen as a substitute for the work of art. In so far as a work of art is itself an image, it must be so realized technically that the image and construction of art appear to give rise to one another simultaneously. Technical means can never be an end in themselves, but neither is purely mimetic activity an example of art. Construction is a subjective act, and any expression of a subjective act requires construction as its means.
Music as non-conceptual thought.
"Thought and its expression are but the two sides of the same prism."
--A. H. Sayce Comparative Philology (1874 ) vol. i, pg. 35.
For right triangles: the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the two other sides. (Pythagoras).
It is impossible for a cube to be written as the sum of two cubes, or a fourth power to be written as the sum of two fourth powers or, in general, for any number which is a power greater than the second to be written as the sum of two like powers (Fermat).
The subject in art -- The ìsubjectî in art is of only small proportion in an artists education, but it is of crucial significance and great consequence to the mature artist's technique, and to the value of art. One must first conquer the entire range of form. If one does not, then an undue emphasis is placed on content. Only after a complete mastery of form can one complete the education with an engagement with subject and allow it then to inform one's formal technique. In music, the subject is pure language. Some might argue that pure language is form. I would argue that the difference lies in the symbolic function of different languages of music: the already abstract language of tonality symbolizes something quite distinct from the even more abstract and less hierarchical languages. (In effect, tonality has become an image already formed, which points away from the purely musical.) In the alchemy that is the artistic process, form and subject think through each other: it is only through the ordering power of form that liberty in subject is gained, and only through the liberating effect of subject is the order in form (harmony) attained.
Technical means -- Technique is the material content of music. Once content separates itself from technique, the musical work fails in its most absolute sense: it gives rise to the image. This image is an illusion that has no purely musical truth; it rather falls into the speakable of language. When language pushes toward the unspeakable, it is seeking to replicate non-conceptual thought: pure cognition.
Formal/technical considerations -- Registral placement of pitches was one preoccupation during the technical realization of Prism - Mirror - Lens. Several considerations were taken into account after the material had begun to coalesce into concretely realizable terms.
1. Pitch collection changed/register changed.
1.1 Three types:
1.1.1 Registral scaffolding altered.
One background register-scaffold gives way to another. This type of motion incorporates registral ìvoice-leadingî--by step or by other connective intervals. Any and only ics 1-6 are possible as connective intervals.
1.1.2. No registral scaffolding.
Disposition chosen by ìpurely musicalî means. This relies on an intuitive grasp of registral placement. Most often it is through step-wise connections unconsciously borrowed from tonal music.
One-to-one mapping, preserving the contour of the ìoriginalî.
1.2. No tonal analog?
Transposition is exactly the same in form when it occurs in tonal or atonal contexts. It functions quite differently however.
188.8.131.52. Tonal transposition.
In a tonal context, exact transposition is an agent of change. It can either create a dissonance--in that it models a stable archetype to which it must return--or it can resolve dissonance--by returning to a stable orbit. The latter case is not often called a ìtranspositionî of the middle term's departure, but a restatement of an original archetype.
184.108.40.206. Atonal transposition.
In a truly atonal context, a transposition does not imply hierarchy (as in the model/departure schema of tonality). The equality of the two terms creates a more interesting relationship; one that is inherently more open to interpretation.
A tonal sequence alters both register and pitch content, but not the contour. The type of registral placement in 12-tone serial contexts where the series and register change cannot alter the pitch content (since a series contains all 12 pitches), only the contour may be altered. However, an atonal, pitch collection based technique will have certain affinities with tonal technique.
1.3. Lack of a clear form.
Part of the difficulty in grasping this dissimilitude lies in the idea's lack of clear form. There is much overlap between categories, as well as complete lack of any basis for comparison.
2. Register locked/series changed
Brings out the permutational character of a 12-tone series. The fact that the pitches are locked spatially (in register) brings out their recurrence in different orders with each new form of the series.
2.1. Analogous to tonal voice-leading; e.g.:
Here, all pitches that are common are locked in register. The two entities (major triads) are distinct yet they are linked in a symbiotic relationship where each depends on the other. They imply a larger, stable, singular orientation.
3. Single series/register changed
3.1. Two types
3.1.1. Scaffolding altered
One background scaffold gives way to another. Incorporates registral ìvoice-leadingî motion--step- or other-wise.
3.1.2. No registral scaffolding
Disposition chosen by ìpurely musicalî means.
3.2. Analogous to tonal transposition (sequential or post-modulation); e.g.:
Here, all pitches map one-to-one into analogous positions in a new entity. The two entities (major triads) are completely distinct; the second implies an unstable, revised orientation.
3.3.1. Registral variations
Basic registral placement can be retained for the generating-series, but altered in the transpositional variants. The transformations outlined below generate pitches at specific intervals from the generating-series. The pitches generated may exhibit their freedom from the generating-series by existing outside its registral scaffold; but are at the same time tied to this scaffold by virtue of the rigorous intervallic tie that generates both pitch and registral placement.
A set may be used as a vector for another set. The intervals formed in a one-to-one mapping of the elements of one set into the elements of another set are taken as the beginning of cycles and are recursively applied to each ìnewî set. This not only generates a sequence of new sets related through the vector, it provides a registral framework which may be utilized, or transformed as well.
This mode of transformation is related to the vector in that a second set is seen as the goal of some process of transformation of a first set. The goal set is in a sense the vector as well as the ultimate goal of the process. Once reached, it can then become a vector as in the first instance, or form a link in a chain of teleological vectors.
Development -- Musical development must be polyphonic. By its very nature, even in a purely linear (monophonic melody) context, it implies polyphony. For instance, the sequencing of a melodic fragment creates a spatial relationship that is vertical, though not simultaneous: the vertical relationship is projected horizontally through time. Thus, where a musical idea is fragmented and sequentially repeated (i.e., developed), it constitutes a polyphonic web of relationships.
Music, freed from the image.
"...from the whisper of mere inclination to the roar of madness..."
--Nietzsche: Birth of Tragedy, p. 55.
The work of art arrives as near divinity as is possible; the creator of art is god-like in power.The work of art is mere shadow-play: illusion and vanity are its mark; the artist plays at work, never rising above dilettantism.
Something is there--not between these bounds, but encompassing them completely--: truth...falsity...
"Art is Truth setting itself to work."
--Heidegger: "The Origin of the Work of Art," p. 36.
Music and Truth -- Music conceals and reveals all at once: in this, it is truthful.
Renewal of Musical Language -- Renewal in music is possible only through a break with convention. Breaks such as those I mean usually begin as surface phenomena--accretions to the superstructure of music, leaving the basis intact but irreversibly altered. Once a certain critical mass is attained, the accretions completely destroy the conventional basis to which they adhered.
The original conventions were themselves based in primitives of human perception, and the accretions built on these primitives in a manner that is also based in human perception. Once these primitives and their accretions became convention, however, the only possible renewal lay in the realm of higher-order perceptual constructs: meta-structures. The primitives and their accretions no longer sufficed, they had to be shed so that renewal could take place.
The expressive capabilities of high musical Romanticism were based in an ornately developed state of embroidered primitives. It was so highly developed in its surface, rhetorical, and accretional structure that in order for renewal of the language to be achieved, a complete break was necessary.
We are only now beginning to reach a stage where we can recapture the spirit of Romanticism through a sufficiently realized accretion to the new, higher-order perceptual constructs instituted by the new music. In order to recapture both the inwardness and the excesses of Romanticism, we must rely on a newly poeticized but thoroughly rigorous language. In order to reach the complete freedom of intuition, we must submit to the principle articulated by Boulez as the ìorganization of delirium.î The first composer to fully recognize this was Jean BarraquÈ.
The seemingly contradictory elements of organizational rigor, and poetic delirium are as ancient as music. Pythagoras is the mythical source of both mathematics--within which stands music for him--and metaphysics--wherein lies the divine delirium of the transcendental moment.
The quotation of Pythagoras heading de Nerval's poem, ìTout est sensible!î, means just this: that all formed matter is sentient, and all sentience is--even in its metaphysical domain--formed (constructed) matter.
Geometry: A solid figure of which the two ends are similar, equal, and parallel rectilineal figures, and the sides parallelograms. Optics: A transparent body of this form, usually a triangular geometrical prism, of which the refracting surfaces are at an acute angle with each other.
1656 W. D. tr. Comenius' Gate Lat. Unl. ß480. 139 Prismes (called fools paradises) which transform the colours of things into a thousand shapes.
1743 Ld. Hervey Monimia to Philocles Poet. Wks. (1808) 48 So in a prism to the deluded eye Each pictur'd trifle takes a rainbow dye.
1820 W. Irving Sketch Bk. II. 207, I had surveyed the landscape through the prism of poetry, which tinged every object with the hues of the rainbow.
1874 Sayce Compar. Philol. i. 35 Thought and its expression are but the two sides of the same prism.
Optics: A polished surface, either plane, convex, or concave, that reflects rays of light; a speculum.
1784 Cowper Task ii. 291 The fleeting images that fill The mirror of the mind.
1874 Sayce Compar. Philol. v. 176 Language is the mirror of society, and accordingly will reflect every social change.
1927 W. B. Yeats October Blast 9 All those things whereof Man makes a superhuman *Mirror-resembling dream.
1934 W. B. Yeats King of Gt. Clock Tower 40 The *mirror scalËd serpent is multiplicity.
1940 W. Faulkner Hamlet iv. i. 247 Something to be repudiated with contempt, like a *mirror trick.
1955 W. Stevens Opus Posthumous (1957) 51 Your gowns..came shining as things come That enter day from night, came *mirror-dark.
adv., in the manner of mirror-writing; mirror fugue Mus., a fugue that can be played in a reversed or inverted manner, as if read in a mirror placed at the end of or underneath the music.
1931 D. F. Tovey Compan. to `Art of Fugue' 61 The original edition [of Bach's `Art of Fugue']..should not have printed the *mirror-fugues in succession instead of in mirror-reflection. 1962 Listener 27 Dec. 1109/2 The fifth fugue is again for strings only, as are the rectus versions of the `mirror' fugues XII and XIII [of Bach]. 1973 Times 23 Apr. 16/2 A concert-goer who can recognize a mirror-fugue merely by listening to it has no need of assistance.
1964 Listener 20 Aug. 264/2 A prism, or perhaps tent-shaped room, some eighty feet high, whose two inclined faces are all mirror; hidden in the ridge are two film cameras... So that film image as well as the constantly moving crowd are repeated ad infinitum in the *mirror-wall, as if it were the inside of a kaleidoscope.
Optics: A piece of glass, or other transparent substance, with two curved surfaces, or one plane and one curved surface, serving to cause regular convergence or divergence of the rays of light passing through it. Now sometimes applied to analogous contrivances for producing similar effects on radiations other than those of light, as in acoustic lens, electric lens.
1704 Newton: Opticks vol. i. (1721) 8 "A Glass spherically Convex on both sides (usually called a Lens)."
1704 Newton: Opticks 57 ìAccording to the difference of the Lenses, I used various distances.î
1781 Cowper Charity 385 He claps his lens, if haply they may see, Close to the part where vision ought to be.
1831 Brewster: Optics ìImages are formed by lenses in the very same manner as they are formed by mirrors.î
1881 Routledge Science xii. 279 The property of a lens to form an image depends upon its power of refracting the rays of light. 1931 [see electron lens s.v. electron2 2 b].
A COMPOSER SPEAKS OUT
Voice of the People
Now that the Cold War is declared over itís time to find new enemies from within. This time itís public funding in media and the arts. We hear from your columnist, Joan Beck (Op-Ed, Jan. 12), and then from U.S. Represen-tative Philip M. Crane (Voice of the People, Jan. 18) that the arts should not receive Federal funding. Thus art would need to compete for funding with elements of more ìpopular cultureî, i.e., Hollywood movies, music produced by wealthy recording companies, and of course, the most commercial venue of all, television. Such a condition allows large corporations to be arbiters of taste, of what goes into the eyes, ears and minds of the population.
We know already that the U.S. population is less literate than it once was, less critical of what it sees as entertainment (i.e., extreme violence on television and in the movies), and increasingly insensitive to questions of morality in political situations (take the example of Oliver North, a person who has been convicted of lying to Congress, nearly winning the Senatorial election in Virginia). Unfortunately, this is not a country where people can be trusted to read and do research on their own (despite the popularity of the Internet, which covers a very small, privileged percentage of the population). This is a country where people need to have their information presented freely, without an agenda that tries to limit and control.
The current talk about dismantling the Public Broadcasting System is particularly dangerous because it would leave all news and much TV/radio arts programming in private control. This control is not designed in the public interest: it is for profit, to sell commodities and to put forth particular points of view, whether they be merely sensational (as is the case of much local television news) or narrowminded (as is the case of much national news).
The same fear can be raised over loss of public funding for the arts. Public funding supports one of our basic rights: freedom of expression. What art is chosen for funding is determined by peer group evaluation, not by radio talk show hosts. Public funding distributes money to all parts of the country, not just the wealthy areas, and it allows the arts to remain free of domination by the will of the powerfulóof narrow political groups, corporations and the very wealthy. (This is obviously less true in regard to the ìmarketî of painting and sculpture, but thatís another issue.) It supports a large range of expression, from the small town wind band to the midsize city theatre company to the large city dance company, all of which would suffer if this funding were to dry up. In a time when funding for local public school systems is also under siege, public funding for the arts serves to supplement programs which have been cut and provides needed programs in systems which have none.
We in the arts are well aware that public funding is not the only avenue for support. Nonetheless, by receiving public funding a group is seen as being trustworthy in the use of private funds because it has passed the scrutiny of the public funding application process, which is far more detailed and rigorous than that of private funding.
Returning to the opening theme, enemies from within: it is disappointing to hear that the Chicago Tribune is planning to reconfigure its Arts Plus page into a format with even less arts information than it already has (which, by national standards, in papers such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, is already embarrassingly small). In a time when the arts are talked about as the new enemy, it would be far more courageous for the Tribune to expand its arts coverage instead of caving in to a questionable and moveable bottom line. In the same sense, it is important that concerned citizens should recognize that if they donít object to the efforts of public officials to silence the voices of public funding, the time will come that the only free expression is that which is paid for.
Janice Misurell-Mitchell, composer, performer, educator
(Note: As we go to press, this letter has not yet appeared in the Tribune.)
Composers on their works: Notes on three works to be given their local premiere by the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Barbara Schubert, conducting, on April 29 (see CUBE Steps Out)
Concerto for piano and double string orchestra.
The concerto for piano and double string orchestra was written for a variety of reasons. Conceivably the most significant grounds for starting such an ambitious project were my fascination with the lush sound possibilities of the string orchestra and the exciting prospects of a musical dialogue between the strings and a contrasting solo instrument.
From a composerís standpoint, the piano was not an obvious choice. Being a pianist as well as a composer I strongly felt the risk of getting carried away and writing the notes as they fell under the hands, which would not automatically promise great results. When it comes to expressing lyrical moments ó to balance off the thunderous percussive sonorities which are easy to achieve ó the instrument seems somewhat uninviting. By the very nature of the way sound is produced, tones die out instantly. It takes both good performers and composers to create the illusion necessary to mask this characteristic. The piano has been so successfully employed by many good composers that the question as to whether the medium of the piano concerto has exhausted itself seems almost rhetorical. If one seeks expansion of expressive means in so-called extended techniques, the piano is all of a sudden remarkably shy in its dynamic range. A concerto with full orchestra is a guarantee that most of these delicacies will go unnoticed. I chose to use the piano after all because, in combination with strings, its percussive character is definitely an advantage when it comes to the instrumentation of complex harmonies. In addition, because of its prominent timbre and great dynamic power, the piano adequately voices a message that at times requires a great deal of vigor.
The concerto features two separate string sections that are grouped on both the left and the right side of the solo instrument. In this fashion the concerto has become a dialogue between three groups rather than the usual two. A small body of percussion instruments ó grouped near the piano ó has been used to accent special rhythmic and sometimes coloristic effects.
The opening movement, allegro ma non troppo, is rhapsodic in character. The mood is initially dark and intense. The movement opens with a motif that is ìas harsh as Fate.î A middle section breaks this sincerity and evolves into an almost impressionist game of opposing harmonies and playful gestures. This pleasant atmosphere is disturbed by a sudden restatement of the opening. However, this time the music is charged even more than before. A climactic harmony, posed by all three groups alike, seems to ask for response. The answer comes in the form of a ghost like version of the first four notes of the opening motif, repeated by the strings using only harmonics, accompanied by the piano playing only harmonics as well.
The second movement, adagio, starts with the piano innocently introducing what appears to be a simple tonal cadence. However, melody and accompaniment modulate in opposite directions. What started out as pure and innocent becomes a haunting game of unresolved harmonic tension. The strings add to the atmosphere by drenching the music in soft clusters. A faster middle section moves swiftly towards a climactic passage that dissolves abruptly, leaving only a haze of string clusters and a soaring melody in the piano trying to resolve its tonal dilemma.
In the final movement, rondo-allegrissimo, the piano shows its strength in agility by introducing a fast whirlwind like theme, in irregular meter, that uses almost all registers. The orchestras respond with previously heard material. A second theme is introduced by the first violins in one of the orchestras while the rest of the string groups accompany col legno, sending the accompanying figure left and right. The development section recapitulates some of the material of the first movement, however, this time in a much more aggressive and violent setting. Out of this the piano emerges with the second theme accelerating towards the conclusion. In the closing measures a united group plays out its final cadence.
Stacy Lee Garrop
G-d ease my soul,
I hear my spirit cry.
Throughout our lives, we are constantly enveloped by the opinions, attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts of other people. If we are not careful, we can be swept away from our true inner selves by this human tidal wave. As the roar of human chatter fills our ears, the voice of our inner self fades away until our personal goals and desires completely drown in the demands and wants of others. If we are lucky, our spirit (the very core of our being) cries out a warning to us at this perilous moment, pleading with us to examine ourselves and asking us if we are happy with what we have become.
My spirit cried out to me this past summer as I taught at a music camp in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. While at the camp, I discovered that I no longer recognized my inner self. Who was I? What did I want out of life? What music did I want to write that would please my buried inner self, rather than my friends, colleagues, and professors?
My personal struggle manifested itself in SpiritCry, my first orchestral work. The structure of the piece is governed by two warring factions: first, the entire work fits into a scherzo - trio form, with a prelude and a climactic postlude included to round out the piece. Second, a six note set controls the harmonic structure and shape of the prelude and postlude, as well as a large amount of musical material throughout the scherzo and trio. A second struggle exists between the two themes of the scherzo: the first theme sounds driven as it hammers out minor seconds and tritones, whereas the second theme euphorically breezes along amongst a plethora of perfect fifths. My spiritís voice, however, remains constant throughout the work: the woodwind and string solos in the prelude, trio, and postlude freely express my spiritís thoughts.
Now that I have heard my spirit cry and I have responded, am I at peace with myself? I am unsure. But no matter what else, SpiritCry has given me a foothold on the path of re-discovering who I am.
Entrada Triunfal del Rey Mangoberry
I wrote this work in 1993, and it was the first in a series of ìPostcard Commissionsî by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (Ohio) that were meant to salute the orchestra on its 60th Anniversary season. The piece is a sort of fanfare, short, but very festive, scored for all the woodwinds (in 3ís), brass and percussion, of a regular symphony orchestra, strings excluded. The work is another attempt on my part in the neverending quest to find the perfect Caribbean sound. Stylistically speaking, I nicknamed this attempt ìJohn Williams goes Latin.î
King Mangoberryís Triumphant Entrance is loosely symbolic of the joining of two cultures. A friend of mine from New York, while visiting me in my native Venezuela, spontaneously came up with the idea of mixing strawberries and mango while at one of Caracasí typical streetside juice stands. As far as I know this was a new combination ó never before thought of there due to the fact that strawberries are not easily available in a tropical climate. The tanginess of the strawberry perfectly complements the sweet mango fruit, resulting in an amazing beverage. This is a wonderful example of the many great things that result from the merging of diverse cultures.
When the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned me,I had been thinking of a fairy-tale based upon this ìjuicyî discovery. Therefore, the fanfare has the bittersweet quality of the fusing of tropical mangos and Northern strawberries.
Fifty Years After:
Music of the European Reconstruction and the Euro-American Community.
by Peter Gena
Artistic Director, NEMO
Shortly after WWII, as the whole of Europe recovered from the tragic destruction, the musical community saw a need for unification and convocation in order to restore its distinguished tradition. This artistic identity, as entrenched previously in nationalistic ideologies as the continent had been, underwent reconstruction. In 1946, the first Ferienkurse f¸r Neue Musik in Darmstadt generated a new musical community. Young composers from all over Europe and America convened to encourage and celebrate new ways of musical thinking; and within a dozen years Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen, Bruno Maderna, Luciano Berio, John Cage and many others had shared aesthetic viewpoints.
Many of the young Europeans embraced the post-serial style and the electronic medium, while their American counterparts (having reaped the benefits of the immigration of European artists) explored a similar road on the one hand, and the aftermath of the American ultra-modern idiom and indeterminacy on the other. As ÈmigrÈ artists Hans Hofmann and Josef Albers sowed the seeds of abstract expressionism in New York, American composers looked to Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles, Edgard VarËse and Stefan Wolpe in New York. Consequently, the previously formidable Atlantic barrier, gave way to a new convergence of ideas on both continents. Subsequently, the emergence of important centers showed no geographic boundaries.
In the late 1940s, the recognition of sound as a significant element of music sparked the concrËte experiments of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry at the Radiodiffusion-TÈlÈvision in Paris, and the work of Luciano Berio at the Studio di Fonologia at the Italian Radio in Milan. Similarly in the early 1950s, Herbert Eimert and Stockhausen (who had worked earlier at Radiodiffusion) founded the electronic music Studio at the Cologne Radio, while Milton Babbitt experimented with the Mark I & II synthesizers which led to the establishment of the Columbia-Princeton Music Center. In the midwest, Lejaren Hiller created the Experimental Music Studio at the University of Illinois. Even Moscow, participated with Edison Denisov at the Experimental Studio of Electronic Music-though ten years later.
That sound could be quantitatively represented on magnetic tape, i.e. 15 inches of tape equaled one second of sound, catapulted new concepts in the perception of rhythm and duration beyond Webern's seemingly non-referential excursions. Stockhausen's seminal article ì. . . How Time Passes . . .î in Die Reihe, studied the perceptional limits of temporal lengths between events. In the 1940s, John Cage already had begun applying proportional time lengths in his ìsquare rootî systems. This temporal freedom, combined with the use of sound as a structural element, led to the development of graphic musical notation, the incorporation of ìnon-musicalî sounds into music such as Cage's prepared piano, and the employment of objets trouvÈs or found sounds (radio, closely amplified noises, junk instruments) in his work and that of the musique concrËte composers, VarËse, and others.
The natural outcome of indeterminacy in the US (aleatory, as Boulez called it, in Europe ó ìI like to know where I am going to land before I jump off the carpet.î) not only paved the way for free-formed music (i.e. Cage, Earle Brown, Stockhausen, Berio, Maderna, Denisov, etc.) but for the highly formalized work of Xenakis, Boulez and Babbitt, and the fusion of improvisational elements (contributed by Americans in Europe such as Anthony Braxton, Don Pullen, and Nina Simone). Furthermore, the need for regimented ensembles on a proscenium stage and the necessity of a conductor waned ó spatial considerations were often a prominent feature of new work.
Today as we look to the twenty-first century, we see a seamless cross- fertilization among national styles-a harbinger to the success of the newly formed European Union. We hope that the NEMO events of this May and next year encourage future global musics to thrive.
CUBE Members' Summer Activities
Jeffrey Kust, guitar
Jeff Kust has spent his spring and summer producing and distributing his voice-over demo tape. ìThe tape features all original scripts, music and voices and has been received well (which is good, as it has cost me a bundle). So give me a call for all your advertising needsÖî
JK will once again darken the door, airwaves and towels of WFMT by hosting the Midnight Special on October 21st from 9 to midnight. Returning will be Jeffís comedy group, Fragroon, Klubble & Klubble, along with more music from the Chicago songwriting and acoustic (pronounced ah-kkkoooostikkkóas if you grew up in Cicero) music scene.
JJK will premiere Neptune, a work for 3 horns, 2 flutes and guitar and based on Chinese folk songs, by Fengshi Yang at North Central College on January 14. He will also perform at the SEAMUS festival (April 18-20) for electro-acoustic music where he will perform Mirrors, Stones and Cotton by Charles Norman Mason for guitar and tape.
Janice Misurell-Mitchell, flute, composer
Janice Misurell-Mitchellís compositional year began with performances on WFMT of her work for solo guitar, Dark Was the Night, by CUBEís Jeffrey Kust, for whom it was written, and Uncommon Time, in the version for flute and frame drum, by Mary Stolper, flute, and Doug Brush, percussion. All three pieces were presented again later in the season, as well as performances of After the History at Northwestern and DePaul. Janice was invited as guest artist in a faculty recital with Dane Richeson at Lawrence University, performing After the History, for voice, flute and percussion, to a crowd of over three hundred people visiting for Parentís Weekend (were they surprised!). The compact disc featuring Caroline Pittman and Jeff Kust playing Janiceís On Thin Ice, for flute and guitar, and Sub-Music and Song, for solo flute was released by OPUS ONE Recordings, Inc. (#160) in late 1994; itís available at Tower Records and Rose Records (call first). Janiceís Speechscape, for solo alto saxophone, was performed by Richard Nunemaker at Chico State University in California, and by Susan Cook in her faculty recital at DePaul. Pat and Phil Morehead presented the work written for them, Deconstruction Blues, for English horn and keyboard, at the Musiciansí Club of Women and at DePaul. Cantus Interruptus, for alto and tenor saxophones, percussion and piano, was performed by Northwesternís Contemporary Music Ensemble, under Director Don Owens in performances at Northwestern and at the Society of Composers, Inc., Conference at the University of Iowa. In May Janice was interviewed on WNIB by Bruce Duffie in a lively hour of conversation and music. She continued her composition teaching at DePaul and taught the ìWomen and Musicî course again in the spring. This fall she will be completing the production of two videos of her performance piecesófilming Scat/Rap Counterpoint outdoors in the 95+ degree heat this summer proved to be a challenge! At the end of September she will travel to Prague for a performance and recording by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra of her new work for chamber orchestra, Luminaria.
Patricia Morehead, oboes, composer
Patricia has had a very busy year indeed. In no particular order: Her former oboe and chamber music student, Alex Klein, whom she coached at the International Music Festival, Gramado, Brazil in 1981, is the new principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She co-directed, with Frank Abbinanti, a concert of all Chicago composers (19 total) at the Green Mill in October, 1994. Pat was invited to organize a concert of music by women composers, using Chicago Musical College student performers to participate in a noon-hour concert in March, 1995, at the Daley Plaza during ìWomenís History Month.î In a feat of endurance, Pat played oboe/English Horn (works by CMC Roosevelt composition students) for ìLoop Dreamsî organized by Peter Gena, senior composer in the Time Arts program at the School of the Art Institute. The concept, conceived by John Eaton of The University of Chicago, presented three days of concerts by composition students from Northwestern, University of Chicago, DePaul School of Music, Columbia College (music technology majors) and CMC. Pat is Chair of the NEMO committee (New European Music Overseas, Pierre Boulez, Honorary Chair) and InterArts Chicago which presented a series of three preview concerts in May 1995. NEMO will sponsor a festival of European contemporary music this Spring. She also premiered Fractals for oboe and piano by Jean-Paul Bottemanne in January 1995 on a concert of NEMO composers.
Compositions by Patricia Morehead presented in Chicago this concert season: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God was sung in a new version by the Oriana Singers and played by the Chicago Ensemble at the Ravinia Festival, August 1994. The Zoological Garden for voice, flute and piano was sung by Maria Lagios for Mostly Musicís outreach childrenís concert at Harold Washington Public Library, October 1994 (more than 300 children attended from Chicago Public Schools). Her award-winning Music for Five was performed on the Chautauqua Series at the Harold Washington Public Library, January 1995. Four Alaskan Songs for voice, clarinet and piano, were sung by Constance Beavon at the Arts Club of Chicago, February 1995. Her Variations for solo piano were played by Mary Beth Molenaar on a Northwestern DMA recital (coached by Ursula Oppens) in Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, March 1995. Three of her works ó The Edible Flute for flute and piano, Elegy for clarinet and piano, Variations for solo piano ó were performed on the Chautauqua Composer Series (she shared the program with composer/pianist Sebastien Huydts) at the Harold Washington Public Library, April 1995, by members of the Chicago Chamber Music Collective. Her latest composition, Good News Falls Gently for voice and chamber orchestra, poetry by poet-composer Regina Harris Baiocchi, commissioned by the festival Incontri Musicali di Musica Sacra, will be premiered in October in Rome and Bari, Italy, with Constance Beavon as soloist.
Pat is now a published author! Her article ìContracting Sets and Expanding Tropes in Stefan Wolpeís Passacaglia for Pianoî appeared in SONUS, A Journal of Investigations into Global Musical Possibilities, Volume 15, No. 2, Spring 1995.
Philip Morehead, keyboards, conductor
Phil has been busy with his work for Lyric Opera, preparing for the busiest season since he joined the company in 1981. In March he went to New York for a week to attend final rehearsals for John Coriglianoís The Ghosts of Versailles in preparation for Lyric Operaís fall production. During the current Lyric season he will be understudy conductor for maestro John Nelson, who is conducting Lyricís production of Handelís Xerxes. Philís other musical activities included conducting two Boulez works, DÈrive for chamber ensemble and Messagesquisse for seven cellos; both works featured Martine Benman as cello soloist. Phil also played Stockhausenís Klavierstuck V and accompanied Janice Pantazelos in Milton Babbittís song The Widowís Lament in Springtime. Earlier in the year, he conducted the premiere of Richard Blockerís Prism, Mirror, Lens for CUBE. Recently he has been giving radio interviews nationwide promoting his new edition of The New American Handy College Dictionary, a work which has sold over 15 million copies since its original release in 1958.
Caroline Pittman, flute
Since our last report, Caroline has been active in the field of new music and commercials. In June she played the Chicago premiere of Stephen Moskoís solo flute piece with the Chicago Chamber Consortium. She played Patricia Moreheadís The Edible Flute on WFMT in October 1994 as part of the Chicago Chamber Music Consortiumís broadcast series. She also played the American premiere of Le Fou ¦ pattes bleues (The Blue-Footed Booby)by featured composer Tristan Murail for NEMO (New European Music Overseas) Preview Festival in May. In the same festival she played Bernd Alois Zimmermann pieces for multiple flutes, Tempus loquendi. She was invited to play solo flute with ensemble in honor of Jeffrey Gilbert for the National Flute Association Convention in Florida in August 1995, and she will be participating in a new recording project for Warner Bros. in September.
Dane Richeson, percussion
In addition to his position as Associate Professor of Percussion Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, Dane Richeson was involved in numerous ensembles and performances of classical music, jazz, and world music. At Lawrence he organized and directed Kinkaviwo, a Ghanaian drumming group which gave several performances during the year; he lectured on Ghanaian drumming for the Wisconsin Music Educatorsí Association. He was also director and lead drummer for another Lawrence group, the Brazilian Batucada Ensemble. In the fall he played in the Isthmus Jazz Festival in Madison, Wisconsin, and he performed in three concerts with the Chicago-based ensemble, Express, in addition to the October CUBE concert, on WFMT radioís ìLive from Studio One.î Other Chicago appearances include performances of Janice Misurell-Mitchellís After the History at Northwestern and at DePaul, and in various outdoor venues from the Adler Planetarium to the South Shore Club for the video of Scat/Rap Counterpoint. He performed in the concert series presented by the Bach, Dancing and Dynamite Society, based in Madison, WI, and he toured with the New York progressive rock group, Dadadah, playing several concerts in the Midwest and then at the Knitting Factory in New York. He will also appear on the groupís CD, which will be recorded in late summer. Another CD he will appear on is The John Harmon Trio, recently issued on the Klavier label. His Lawrence University Percussion Ensemble, LUPE, has also recorded a CD, featuring the twentieth-century masterpiece, Cantata para America Magica, by Alberto Ginastera; it will be released in October. LUPE recently won the Percussive Arts Society Percussion Ensemble Competition, which was held worldwide. The group is one of two university ensembles selected to perform at the Societyís Convention in Phoenix this November, and they will also play at the Wisconsin Music Educators Convention in October.
Xiang Aspects and Other Compositions:
Music by Maurice Weddington
Sunday, October 8, 2:00 p.m., The Art Institute of Chicago, Arthur Rubloff Auditorium (enter on Columbus Drive). Tickets: $10 at the door
Soloists from the Netherlands:
Harry Sparnaay, bass clarinet; Harrie Starreveld, flute; Ernest Rombout, oboe
Maurice Weddingtonís composition Xiang Aspects for chamber ensemble is based on the 15th-century Chinese scroll Wind and Rain on the Xiang River by the gentleman-scholar Xia Chang (1388-1470). Weddingtonís music is in many ways revolutionary; it is passionate and intense in contrast to the cool conceptual quality of much modern music. There is fragmentation within unity and community in solitude as attested by the unearthly harmony which occurs, for example, in a concerto in which the soloist plays independently of the orchestra and conductor, or a quartet in which each player selects his own music.
Maurice Weddington was born on the south side of Chicago in 1941. At 14, the fan of Miles and Coltrane discovered Stravinskyís Le Sacre du Printemps and from then he began an intensive study of modern and classical music. He attended Woodrow Wilson City College. Weddington left Chicago for Europe at the age of 20, and eventually settled in Denmark, where he studied composition at the American Conservatory of the International Society for Contemporary Music. In 1975, he was invited as guest artist to Berlin under the German Academic Exchange Service, and has lived there ever since.
Accompanying the concert will be a film-on-video of the scroll Wind and Rain on the Xiang River. The film was produced at the Museum of East Asian Art in Berlin-Dahlem specifically for this presentation. The structural complexity of the scroll dictated Weddingtonís utilization of very contemporary compositional means. In commenting on this relationship, Weddington said: ëThe music reflects the remarkable way the painter plays with time and space, presenting elements from slightly different vantage points simultaneously. The river runs through all 30 feet of the painting flowing constantly in an eternal row.î The Art Institute owns a related scroll by Xia Chang Bamboo along the Stream in Spring Rain, and it will be on view the day of the concert in Gallery 108.
The concert includes three other compositions by Weddington. In SeuI for bass clarinet the soloist sings and plays percussion while also playing notes. Weddington challenges the woodwind instrumentalist with quarter tones, irregular trills, and multiphonics. Deovolente is built around quarter tones and irregular flagelets, whose minute colorations create shimmering veils of sound. Nebulae, Weddingtonís most recent work created for musette, a piccolo-oboe, is receiving its world premiere at this concert.
The presentation is sponsored by the The Art Institute of Chicago, the Goethe-Institut, Lufthansa German Airlines, the Netherland-America Foundation, NY, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands, Chicago.
no sound is innocent / the meta-musical narratives of AMM
No Sound is Innocent: AMM and the Practice of Self-invention by Edwin John PrÈvost
a review by Frank Abbinanti
What is AMM?
In 1966 British composer Cornelius Cardew joined Keith Rowe, Lou Gare, Eddie PrÈvost and Lawrence Sheaff (four experimental musicians from a jazz background) to form AMM, a group which played freely improvised instrumental and live electronic music, exploring exhaustively all the resources of their instruments and of electronic amplification.
The remarkable improvisation ensemble AMM began some thirty years ago in London; the time of protest and reappraisal, social relevance and political activism. Serious music was changed by these times. The rigors of the avant-garde, the post-war determinism of structure at every level gave way to the images and gestures of the times. Serial schemata was replaced by melody-quotation, collage and improvisation. Cageís free-spirited spectacle HPSCHD and Berioís grafitti-shouted Sinfonia were solidarity infected. Even Stockhausenís opportunism resulted in a period masterpiece, Stimmung, where unaccompanied vocalists sit hippie-style in a circle intoning the names of Asian gods. But in retrospect we see the realm of improvisation has remained alive in its continuation into new genres and innovation, where other works simply become a data entry into the computer. Improvisation proved to be liberation from the ìtyrannyî of the composerís pleasures and after decades it still harbors an experimental agenda despite the homogenizing effects of post-modern cultural recipes.
After a brief encounter with traditional ìheadî jazz AMM began directly with sound, letting it take the improviser where it desired. AMM co-founder Eddie PrÈvost still inhabited the drum-set, but his role as time-keeper was eradicated; instead he was participant in the structure of the sound, a realm today IRCAM composers practice. Guitarist and also AMM co-founder Keith Rowe played his guitar as a sound object, flat on a table, where the strings became a source for vast fields of convoluted electronic sounds. Rowe began using a cello bow placing alligator clips and cocktail mixers directly on the strings. The radio ó of John Cage fame ó was now a functional instrument, another sound source to perform in duet with. AMM soon established a reputation where rockers from Pink Floyd began attending their performances. Who would have guessed on June 12, 1968, that AMM would make history through their performance at The Crypt in London. Oddly enough someone recorded this performance and the recording actually was Number One on Billboardís charts ahead of such pop icons as The Beach Boys.
But AMM was not interested in fame; only the integrity of their collective agenda. AMM only once had a composer-in-residence, the late Cornelius Cardew, who saw another side to the untapped region of improvisation. He thought graphic music notation might prove itself as a middle ground between composing and free improvisation. So he began bringing sketches of what finally became his monumental 193-graphic score Treatise to performing sessions. In the early days of AMM music, public concerts were not encouraged. Playing sessions were quite informal. In No Sound is Innocent Eddie PrÈvost provides fascinating reflections on AMM. The book opens with a brief history all recounted by AMM guests and participants. Christopher Hobbs, Lawrence Shaeff, even composer Christian Wolff were welcome assets in defining what AMM music would be. Points of extinction for AMM did come near leftist radicalism was in vogue. But politics has always been a nurturing discourse for anyone claiming to embrace any form of radical culture, as was the case with the Surrealists decades earlier. As PrÈvost describes in short meta-musical narratives ó the primary parts of this work ó AMM saw early that falling on the treadmill of the marketplace was self-defeating. Also that being swayed by the canonic-driven designs of academia betrayed the historical source of their adopted language of improvisation. Instead AMMís focus was to be consistent with the history of world music, which reaches further back than written music. Their musical language was contained somewhere within the unwritten history of unwritten music.
These ìmeta-narrativesî are like a dialogue with the history of sound. Speaking about ìsoundî and ìtimeî transcends the limitations of oneís own culture, the free improviser can freely survey the history of sound now, we neednít begin with a German Bís triumvirate. ìIn accounts of ancient Chinese military exploits, messages between battalion, sounds intended to communicate battle orders, were said to convey so ominous an outcome that opposing forces laid down their arms and fledÖî As PrÈvost acknowledges, AMMís agenda is never an irreverent use of world music conceptions, but finding oneís own pathways within this large lifeworld of sound. PrÈvost places in full relief the sins of Western music. ìThe western music tradition has renewed itself by taking in raw materials, from the folk musics of its own history, from its parent societyís lower strata, from the colonial peoples or economic subjects and even from product-oriented pop.î The power of AMM, in this light is never having succumbed to falsification of Western artists tampering with other culturesí art, as minimalists composers have done. ìOnce touched, the cultures will not recover. The mono-industrial culture of western society, converting everything for its own insatiable use, consumes all.î
As the title suggests, ìNo Sound is Innocentî: each participant improviser is responsible for the end result of the improvisation. Commitment seems to be a lost art in Western free improvisation. Many free improvisers in jazz ìfollowî the leader. There is seldom the creative freedom we find with AMM, which perhaps explains why so many improvisers today prefer to cultivate a solo career unencumbered with a ìgroupî mindset. ìCollective free improvisation is fired, not to say controlled, only by the needs of each partyÖ There is no free ride. Musicians have first to decide that they wish to move, even though they are unsure of direction.î
In 1991 I sat mesmerized for one solid hour at an AMM performance in Nantes. The performance was in a cathedral converted to a gallery. The echoes of sound seem to only amplify AMM. But AMM played with this space. The music was elegant, convoluted, untarnished with sourceless electronic sounds mixed imperceptibly with bowed cymbal and a few bell-like tones from the prepared piano of pianist John Tilbury. Lou Gare ó also an early AMM member ó simply held sax tones shaping with vibrato/non-vibrato trailing off with filigree runs into a soundless envelope. ìThe musician toys with the mouthpiece, checks the tension of the bow, polishes sticks, changes plectrum. As a blank page haunts a writer a musicless space haunts a musician.î AMM does not indulge in secret codes, despite the fact that most of their following has never heard them live nor seen what each member looks like. Instead AMM returns to a deep reverence for making music, even today with deep forms of cultural commercialization schemes affecting our music. AMM in many respects represents an aesthetic in exile. In PrÈvostís important No Sound is Innocent there are no improvisation schemata or performance strategies, but I caught one excerpt which could function like an ìAMM Etudeî: ìStand on mountainside in the middle of an electric storm. Listen to thunder crashing from rock to rock. Watch the lightning arc ferociously to heat and split boulders and weld them whole again.î This experience might prepare the uninitiated for the cataclysm of free improvisation.
AMM now has an international reputation and is admired deeply. They donít perform as frequently as you think. Although they never made a conscious effort to formulate a ìmarket strategyî (this is anathema), I believe one was imposed involuntarily on them. They perform at festivals of new music in Europe and as I write they have embarked on their first tour of Japan
No Sound is Innocent: AMM and the Practice
Edwin John PrÈvos
AMM recordings and the above book are available from:
2 Shetlockís Cottages
Matching Tye near Harlow
Essex CM17 0QR
Send for a catalogue.
Italian Cultural Center Event
On November 17, 1995, at 6:30 PM the Italian Cultural Institute presents a concert/lecture entitled ìThe New Virtuosity,î an event exploring contemporary music for the solo performer. The concert takes place at the Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan Ave., 14th Floor, Chicago. The concert is free.
Featured soloists include soprano Barbara Ann Martin, a sought-after interpreter of new works who has worked with Pierre Boulez and George Crumb. For this event, she sings Giacinto Scelsiís evocative HO, an unaccompanied solo, part of a series of works Scelsi devoted to solo voices. Also performing is trombonist Brian Sherlock playing Luciano Berioís rarely heard Sequenza No. 5, a seminal work in trombone solo literature and the first to utilize extended timbres via mutes and multiphonics. On oboe Patricia Morehead plays In Lebensfluten by Armando Gentilucci, who dies not long ago at a tragically young age. She also pays tribute to Bruno Madernaís love of the double-reeds by performing two unpublished works, Due Frammenti and Aulodia per Lothar. These were dedicated to Lothar Faber, her teacher/mentor, and engage the darker timbres of oboe díamore and English horn.
Composer Frank Abbinanti will introduce these works describing the conceptual/aesthetic features particular to each. He will give a brief genesis of the avant-garde solo emerging after the war, questioning why this genre still excites composers and improvisers and soloists from vastly different creative worlds. The event concludes with Luigi Nonoís enigmatic Post-praeludium per Donau for tuba and live electronics. This is a representative work from Nonoís final creative period, one utilizing micro-intervallic scales, sing/playing, and multiphonics electronically altered. Frank Abbinanti on solo tuba is assisted by Tom Lucchesi and Jeffrey King on live electronics.
The event is part of an ongoing series of concerts and lectures under the NEMO '96 Festival of Contemporary Music.
Activities of Chicago Composers
Robert Lombardo will attend the performance of his Concerto for Mandolin and String Orchestra at the Gaida (Lithuania) Festival on November 29. Dimitris Marinos (of course) will be the soloist. On December 10th and 11th Marinos will give a workshop and recital at Harvard where he will play two works by Lombardo: Contrasti a due and the premiere of Affreschi caldi. He will be joined in the latter by Alison Sarrell (harp), Paul Bowman (guitar) and Janice Pantazelos (mezzo soprano).
Patricia Morehead is in Italy now for performances in Bari and Rome of her new work Good News Falls Gently (text by Regina Harris-Baiocchi). Mezzo-soprano Susan Long Solustri is soloist with conductor Paolo Lepore and the Orchestra sinfonica della provincia di Bari. The performances are under the auspices of the festival Incontri di Musica Sacra Contemporanea.
M. William Karlins is leaving shortly for Hungary, where he will speak about contemporary American music at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and the Franz Liszt Music College in Gyr; composer Gyula Fekete will go along as his translator. He plans to focus on music from the Chicago area and will highlight his talks by playing excerpts of our music, ìwhich I consider more important than explanations.î He will also take along scores and recordings by Chicago area composers for contribution to the Franz Liszt Academy, which has very little contemporary American music and cannot afford to purchase much of it.
Janice Misurell-Mitchell has recently retuned from Prague, where she attended the world premiere and recording of her work for chamber orchestra, Luminaria. The concert and recording are part of an American composers project sponsored by Master Musicians Collective, a recording company established by Boston composer William Thomas McKinley. Janice found the musicians in Prague to be ìterrific, especially the string players.î There is music everywhere in the old section of the city, and a very active chamber music scene for eighteenth and nineteenth century music. Mozart operas are presented in a variety of venues, from puppet theater to ironic, postmodern productions. American jazz and country music are preformed regularly, and very well, by Czech musicians in their own language. The Louis Armstrong imitations in Czech are something else!
Frank Abbinanti will tour Italy in early December. He will present a colo piano concert of American works at the Nova Consonanza Festival in Rome and the Rive-Gauche Concerti in Turin. He will also present a lecture entitled ìMusica USA, Crimes and Innovations.î Frank will perform piano works by Ralph Shapey, George Flynn, Christian Wolff, Douglas Ewart and his own american labour studies for piano. He repeats the event in Genova and Bologna, additionally playing new works by young Italian composers with performances of his Nuovi demoni nel mondo for bass clarinet solo.
Composer-clarinetist Gene Coleman will be performing in London with saxophonist Evan Parker in November. He will also play solo concerts in Hamburg and Luneburg, Germany in December.